New Zealand yachtsman Peter Burling had a lucky escape after huge waves continued to test the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.

Burling and his teammate Annie Lush were grinding as their Dutch entry Team Brunel prepared to gybe close to the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone when a rogue wave hit.

The force of the wave sent Burling and Lush into the guard rail at the back of the boat. Burling was unhurt and "doing well" but Lush was left with pain down her right side as she struggled to move her right leg.

The British sailor was carried below into her bunk and has been prescribed painkillers and plenty of rest by on-call doctor Spike Briggs.

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Team Brunel skipper Bouve Bekking said "even though the ice gate was coming up they would have received a penalty and safety always comes first".

"Annie will be confined to her bunk another 24 hours and hopefully she'll be OK. She's a tough cookie," he said.

It's not the first hit teams have felt since entering the Southern Ocean, just days ago winds of up to 50 knots saw the boats surf down mountainous waves with boat speeds reaching an incredible 38 knots.

Teams have entered the Southern Ocean and have since faced high winds and massive waves. Photo / Volvo Ocean Race
Teams have entered the Southern Ocean and have since faced high winds and massive waves. Photo / Volvo Ocean Race

Team Brunel were running forth prior to the incident and are now more than 65 miles behind leaders Dongfeng Race Team.

The battle between Dongfeng and Blair Tuke's Spanish boat Mapfre has since intensified, with less than three miles between the two in the third leg from Cape Town to Melbourne.

Mapfre had to ease their sails earlier this morning (NZT) in order to avoid collision with Dongfeng on one of many close crosses.

Read more: Volvo Ocean Race entrants surf down mountainous waves in Southern Ocean

"The guys on Mapfre had to ease their masthead sail and arc up to avoid hitting us. We've been battling it out, gybing the whole night through, with probably an hour max on each gybe. It's been pretty tiring," Dongfeng's Carolijn Brouwer reported.

"For us it's a bit frustrating that they're so close, because we had a lead on them but they sailed a bit better and caught up."

"It's amazing to be out here in the middle of nowhere with your opposition right next to you. It's a bit surreal but it makes us push the boats harder," he said.

Mapfre's sailors have been buoyed by their ability to bounce back and reel in Dongfeng as Navigator Juan Vila revealed they would have to wait for the opportune moment to strike.

"I have Dongfeng on the AIS every now and then," Vila said.

"We gain on them sometimes but it's back and forth. There are plenty of opportunities left to do something different. Hopefully we will find our lane and it will work out for us."

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew on Brunel must push on shorthanded in the absence of Lush, making their task ahead even more challenging.